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Politic-Economic-Society-Tech

Beijing rounds up Muslims

John Gittings in Shanghai


The Chinese authorities have detained thousands of Muslims in Xinjiang region in the north-west since September 11, claiming that local separatists are linked to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, Amnesty International said yesterday.
Some are reported to have been executed immediately after "public sentencing meetings". Quoting official sources, Amnesty says 8,000 Muslims were given "political education" courses. Some were arrested for using the Koran.

The report coincides with an "anti-terrorist exhibition" in the regional capital, Urumqi. The exhibits include handguns, grenades, compasses and photographs of alleged terrorists being convicted in court.

In January Beijing claimed that separatists in the Muslim Uighur community in Xinjiang had links with al-Qaida. The Uighurs once made up 93% of the regional population, but now comprise less than half. Xinjiang shares a narrow border with Afghanistan, which the army has sealed off. .

Terrorist incidents in Xinjiang have been small and sporadic.

Earlier this month the governor, Abulahat Abdurixit, said that there was no "major violent terrorist activity" last year.

But Amnesty says: "The number of people detained on political grounds over the past six months is likely to be in the thousands."

With little evidence of actual terrorist activity, the authorities seem to be shifting their attention to what they call the "ideological area".

A senior official said at the the recent national people's congress that the "terrorist forces" were "spreading separatism by smuggling in publications and literary works."

Amnesty says: "All potential dissent and opposition activities, including peaceful expressions of views via poems, songs, books, pamphlets, letters or the internet, have been targeted."

source: The Guardian, 23/03/2002


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